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Little Golden Books Through the Decades

A look at the history of Little Golden Books to celebrate the 75th anniversary.

Little Golden Books launched in 1942 at 25 cents each, democratising reading for young Americans. At that time, children’s books normally sold for $2–$3 and were a luxury for many families.

 

1940s

Average Cost: 25 cents

September 19, 1942: The first advertisement announcing Little Golden Books appears in Publishers Weekly.
October 1, 1942: Simon & Schuster published the first jacketed Little Golden Books. The original 12 titles included:


February 1943: After only 5 months, Little Golden Books were in their 3rd printing, with 1.5 million copies total printed.
1944: The first Walt Disney Little Golden Book, Through the Picture Frame, is published.
1945: Most of the original 12 Little Golden Books are now in their 7th printing.
1947: Little Golden Books are introduced to supermarkets. Within a year, Little Golden Books could be purchased in 1,200 supermarkets nationwide.

1950s

Average Cost: 25 cents

1950: Doctor Dan the Bandage Man is released with Johnson & Johnson Band-Aids glued to the title page. This marked one of the first ventures into book and product joint packaging. The first printing of this title was 1.5 million—the largest first printing of a Little Golden Book.


1951: I Can Fly receives an Honor distinction at the Herald Tribune Children’s Spring Book Festival.
1952: Sales of The Night Before Christmas (published in 1949) reach 4 million copies.
1952: Little Golden Books celebrates it’s 10th Anniversary with almost 183 million Little Golden Books sold.
1954: Little Golden Books are now available throughout most of the world, except the Soviet Union, where they are considered too capitalistic.
Mid-1950s: Topselling Little Golden Books center on children’s TV shows and Westerns (The Roy Rogers Show, Howdy Doody, The Lone Ranger, Davy Crockett, etc).

1960s – 1970s

Average Cost: 29 cents (1962) – 59 cents (1977)

Early 1960s: A large number of new Little Golden Books focus on popular Saturday morning TV shows, such as Huckleberry Hound, The Bullwinkle Show, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, and Bozo the Clown.
1967: More than 200 Little Golden Books have sold a million copies.
1969: A 9-week primetime television advertising campaign is launched for Little Golden Books, highlighting 3 Richard Scarry titles.
1971: The Monster at the End of This Book is launched.
1974: The first Barbie Little Golden Book, Barbie, is published.

1980s – 1990s

Average Cost: 89 cents (1982) – $1.99 (1997)

1982: Little Golden Books turns 40 with over 800 million books sold.
November 20, 1986: The one billionth Little Golden Book, The Poky Little Puppy, is printed.


1992: Little Golden Books celebrates its golden anniversary— 50 years! A boxed set titled 12 Little Golden Books by Favorite Authors and Artists Past and Present is released.
1992: To celebrate 50 years of Little Golden Books, the company gifts the Smithsonian Institution with original artwork from Little Golden Books. It was exhibited there in 2013.
1996: A Publishers Weekly article lists The Poky Little Puppy as the bestselling children’s book of all time.

2000s – 2015s

Average Cost: $2.99 (2000) – $3.99 (2012)

January 2001: The Little Golden Books Classic line is launched to bring back popular vintage Little Golden Books titles based on consumer demand. The first 6 titles include:


2001: The Little Golden Books Classic line wins a Dr. Toy “Best Classic Toy” Award
January 2002:The Little Golden Books library now includes 1,200 unique titles.
2002: Little Golden Books celebrates its 60th anniversary with over 2 billion Little Golden Books printed.
2004: An exhibit of the original art from Little Golden Books opens at the New York Public Library.
2007: Little Golden Books turn 65, and Random House publishes Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children’s Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon Along the Way by Leonard S. Marcus.
October 2007:The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature in Abilene, TX, opens Golden Legacy: Original Artwork from 65 Years of Golden Books. The show continues to tour.
September 2013: Random House publishes the New York Times bestseller Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow, a longtime editorial director at Golden Books.
July 2015: Random House launches 6 Star Wars Little Golden Books with a Star Wars–themed gold spine.

Today

Average Cost: $4.99

2017: Little Golden Books celebrate its 75th anniversary!

 

 

Facts from Golden Legacy: The Story of Golden Books by Leonard S. Marcus and Collecting Little Golden Books’ A Collector’s Identification & Price Guide by Steve Santi